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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Back From The YABBAs 2016

Yet again the YABBAs(Young Australian Best Book Awards) were held somewhere I couldn't get to by public transport, but this time, I had a lift, from my friend George Ivanoff, who had a shortlisted book. I would have loved to take my students, but the one time I was able to take them, I could only take my Year 10 book club members because they were the only ones who could meet me at the station. You have to be early and that would have meant going to work, picking up the younger students and going out again. We barely made it to the city on time fir the Melbourne Writers' Fesrival this year, let alone travelling out to somewhere far off. That year, it was at Trinity Grammar, which we could reach by tram, although it was still a long way off. But really, it's not meant for Year 10 students and they looked like Gullivers in Lilliput. Still, they had a good time and one of them even made it into a video on the web site. I told them that time, "I'm signing. Meet me back here in an hour," and they went around to get autographs from their favourite writers. Then we all went back to the city and had lunch together.

This time the event was held at St Thomas More Primary School in Hadfield. The kids were utterly adorable cherubs, as primary kids tend to be - well, not all, but for an event like this you only choose kids who will enjoy it.

There was a nicely set up library, with pictures of the authors on top of the shelves. The library was run by a library technician, who had been involved in setting up the event for the day and wore a YABBA t-shirt. When the session was over, I donated a copy of Crime Time to the school library. I'd brought some copies in hopes of asking the booksellers to put them on their stall, but there wasn't time. The booksellers didn't arrive till after morning tea, because the first session filled the hall with chairs. The school put together a delightful performance with little ones reading poems about the books, singing a song and others in a costume parade, dressed as characters from various books. Very sweet! The illustrators did the usual "Mr Squiggle" act, inviting kids to come up and do a doodle, to be turned into a cartoon. The awards were presented - as usual, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton won the junior section, for The 65 Storey Treehouse. The two of them did an act to amuse the kids, including Andy pretend-kicking Terry, who had promised to do the speech and burbled, before saying, "Thank you."

Two prizes were won by Aaron Blaby, who couldn't be there. Also not there was Morris Gleitzman, who was overseas, but his wonderful book Soon won the YABBA for older readers. 

I had wanted to buy a copy of the new Treehouse book for a book club member, Priyanka, who was having a birthday, but the new one was sold out, as was the Treehouse diary, so I figured she would settle for an earlier one, if signed (She did. When I gave it to her at her party today, she hugged it in delight).

It was going to be hard to get it signed, though. The queue was so long that I gave up and went to lunch - and at that, I was signing for quite a while after the others went, because kids who had had their Treehouse books signed came over to me before I could get up and leave myself! I mostly signed the official autograph cards, but also gave away mini-posters and bookmarks. And those kids who had helped out with the day came up to get their t-shirts signed! One young man tried to persuade me to sign his school cap. I didn't think his teachers would be happy and I wasn't sucked in by, "Oh, my teacher says it's okay." But he did settle for a signed mini-poster.

When I finally was ready to go to lunch, poor Andy and Terry were still signing, with a mile-long queue. I left anyway and thought they might come soon, but as George told me he needed to go, to drop off his daughter at gymnastics, I returned to the hall, where they were still busy. Someone explained tothe kids at the front of the line that I had to go and they courteously waved me ahead of them, so I could get Priyanka's book signed, "Happy birthday, Priyanka!" from Andy and a drawing from Terry.

On the whole, a pleasant day and the school was lovely. They fed us three times - the start of the day, morning tea and lunch - and treated us as welcome guests. The kids had a great time and so did I, especially as, when I was leaving the hall with my signed book, a small girl ran up and hugged me. Nice!

Thanks, YABBA committee, for inviting me, and thanks, school, for hosting us all!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Finally Finished Reading...The Wizardry Of Jewish Women by Gillian Polack

I bought this at the launch, back in September, and had only read a small amount of it, due to various distractions. It's not the sort of book you can read without focussing. But my mother read fifteen pages and said she wanted to read it and reminded me last week, so I decided it was time to finish it once and for all. I will be taking it to her place when I visit later today. It was amazing how quickly I got through it on one rainy afternoon and curled up in bed this morning and now I must get back to my ASIM slush reading. There are six stories to read this week including one 10,000 word piece. 

So, what's the novel about? Two sisters, Judith and Belinda, come from a background similar to the author's own Anglo-Jewish Australian one, with a family who arrived here in the Victorian era. Mum is gone, Dad is still in Melbourne and the daughters have moved, respectively, to Sydney and Canberra. The years are 2002 and early 2003 - important, because the novel features the Canberra bushfires. 

Belinda is a teacher who loves her garden and cooking and hasn't a man in her life. Judith has an amicable divorce and an ex-partner whom she fled due to domestic violence, and two children she adores. 

And then a parcel arrives from Dad, with the belongings of their great grandmother Ada, who practised magic - Jewish magic, which requires responsibility and is not to be used to hurt people. The sisters research to find out more about their ancestress, who had had a falling-out with her daughter, their grandmother, a woman who had become a doctor, so a scientist. And this magic is very much a mother-to-daughter variety. Judith has a daughter and a curiosity to experiment...

Then there's Rhonda, a cousin on the non-Jewish side of the family, descended from the sister who married out. Rhonda is an historian and an oracle who has been hiding on-line under a lot of different identities, because she can't stop herself predicting in public, doesn't even know what she's going to write until it's spilled into a chat room. 

It was a fascinating read, which reminded me oddly of Lucy Sussex's wonderful The Scarlet Rider, both written by academic women, both about historical research and magic.

I admit I kept forgetting that the novel was set back in the early 2000s, when there were chat rooms all over the Internet, plenty of Internet cafes and people used floppy disks to carry their files around instead of flash drives and external hard drives. It's strange to think it has only been a bit over a decade since then. And unlike the Sussex book, it won't look dated a few years from now, because it's already effectively historical fiction. 

It's also about the casual bigotry we can experience even in this country, even today, though it's set several years ago. The Jewish characters find they have to cope with Antisemitism both from left and right. At one point in the story, Judith is shocked when a long-time(left-wing) friend simply dismisses Molotov cocktails being lobbed at a local Jewish community centre and children being endangered with a "serves them right!" 

The magic in the book is gentle and enjoyable, though once, just once, Judith sets an insomnia spell  on her violent ex-partner. 

And then there's the unicorn in the garden. Not a Jewish beast as far as I know, but still... At the risk of spoilers, a Shetland unicorn, very like the ones I wrote into my New Wales stories years ago. I still have a figurine made for me by Robert Jan, my partner in New Wales fiction. 

The book is published by Satalyte and is easily available on line. I think it's also available in bookshops here. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dad and Son Write!

 And here's what I was emailed last night. A father-and-son novel, written across continents. I said I'd give it a plug, as one of them, the son, lives right here Down Under, and they have an online launch tonight, 6.00 p.m Adelaide time. If you have time, why not wander over and find out what they have to say?

 Here's where it's happening, and you can sign in just before 6.00 p.m Adelaide time.

 Aliens, Vampires and Werewolves…Oh, my!

Blood of Invidia” isn’t full of those cute, candy eating “ET” aliens, or your sparkly “Tween Vampires”. It’s time for you to run (and your little dog too)!
This Science Fiction novel begins 10,000 years ago, a majestic race waged war across our galaxy. They were the Invidians and they conquered worlds, driven to build their empire and fulfill their destiny. But they were mortal, so they sought the secret to eternal life. They found it.
And then the Invidians disappeared.
In our near future, powerful and deadly aliens battle in the streets of New York, captured on social media. The question of “Are we alone?” is answered.
Shortly after, three friends find themselves entangled with a mysterious stranger, discovering that humanity isn’t so high on the food chain, and might just be a breadcrumb on the path paved with the “Blood of Invidia”.

Tom Tinney is an award winning “Biker-Nerd” Science Fiction author. He’s published one novel and has contributed to numerous short story and flash fiction anthologies. His short story “Pest Removal” was nominated for a nationally recognized award. He has a number of projects in the works, some available on his website. He resides in WI with his wife and dogs. Ride safe, ride often.

Morgen Batten is a first time author with a penchant for writing descriptive and intense scenes. He is an avid reader, and gamer, with a love for all that is Fantasy and Science Fiction. He resides in Adelaide Australia.
“Blood of Invidia” will be released the third week in October and is available for pre-order on Amazon worldwide:
More information about the project is available at:
A short Book Video can be seen on YouTube:

Monday, October 17, 2016

And Here Are The YA Shortlisted Books For This Year's PM LiteraryAwards!

Hey, if you want the full list, it's available on line, which is where I found these:

* Becoming Kirrali Lewis - Jane Harrison
* Illuminae: The Illuminae Files_01 - Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
* A Single Stone - Meg McKinlay
* In Between Days - Vikki Wakefield
* Green Valentine - Lili Wilkinson

I've read three of the five - A Single Stone, In Between Days and Green Valentine. All three have been reviewed on this site. I have Illuminae at home, but it has been hard to get started. The book is thick and the story broken up into confusing-looking bits. Better read it now! It has had a lot of good write ups. 
To be honest, of those I've read, I'm hoping the winner is Green Valentine. The other two have been on the CBCA shortlist, so have had their turn, but a book like Green Valentine is never chosen by the CBCA judges, alas! Not literary enough, I suspect. I mean, the closest thing in style I can remember making it to the CBCA shortlist was Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon, and that didn't win. Pity. 
Guess what?  I've been on the NSW Premier's Literary Awards shortlist myself, many years ago, for History. It was for my book on astronauts, Starwalkers: Explorers Of The Unknown, which was nice, because it wasn't on the CBCA shortlist or even a Notable, though my former editor from Allen and Unwin, whose opinion I respected, told me she had read and loved it. I remember one of the CBCA judges telling me it was entertaining, well written, the kids would love it, but none of those were among their criteria. I never heard about it again after the letter, which I wish I could find, but still, it was a thrill at the time and I'm betting these authors are feeling the same way. So congratulations to all of you, ladies! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I've Just Reread... Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks!

Yesterday, while I was with my mother, I ran out of reading brought with me, so went to my old shelves in what was my room and found my old copy of Pagan's Crusade, the first of five novels in the series. Pagan's Vows, the third book, is the last one with Pagan as the hero. By the fourth book, Pagan's Scribe, he's a middle-aged archdeacon and the story is seen from the viewpoint of his young scribe. By the fifth book, Pagan's Daughter, he's dead and it's seen from the viewpoint of a teenage girl who should never have been born, due to celibacy vows, but her parents were both stressed out at the time and, well, just that once... It's the book that begins with the line, "Oh, no! I've killed the chicken!"

Anyway, it has been many years since I've read Pagan's Crusade and I had forgotten how good it was. I reread it in a single sitting. It's written in very modern English, but that seems to work for Pagan, the streetwise young man who finds himself as squire to Lord Roland, a Templar knight and decent man who at the same time needs looking after and teaches Pagan a thing or two. He's also surprisingly clean for a Templar, as the Templar policy was never to wash, and even in this novel it's mentioned with reference to another character. Maybe it's hard for modern readers to sympathise with a grubby character who's happy to be dirty...

Catherine Jinks is a prolific writer who has done a wide variety of books, from science fiction to ghost stories to eighteenth century adventure that reads like Leon Garfield. This, I think, may have been her first - and a fine start to a writing career it was too!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Vale Dario Fo! And Congrats Bob Dylan!

Dario Fo, Wikimedia Commons

Dario Fo, who died yesterday, was a very funny Italian playwright who sent up just about everything. I've seen some of his plays, both by professional and amateur groups(my friend Bart was in Trumpets And Raspberries, for which he had to learn to skateboard). He got a Nobel Prize for Literature back in the 1990s. Vale, Dario! You gave me many a chuckle!

 Bob Dylan has written some of the most amazing and passionate lyrics of the last century. He has just been named this year's Nobel Laureate for Literature. Oh, yes, there are people out there griping about it, just as, no doubt, they whinged when Dario Fo, a man who was funny, for Chrissakes, got one. But Bob Dylan was the voice of the sixties, who said important things through his songs. If he'd just been a musician or a singer, maybe it wouldn't be appropriate. But he's a poet. If he'd been some dry as dust poet nobody had ever heard of, there wouldn't be a peep out of anyone. 

But oh, no, you can't give this award to a poet everyone has actually heard of, whose verses we all sing, someone who is popular, because... Well, it's just vulgar and it's just a sentimental thing that shouldn't be done, how ridiculous!  

There are a lot of amazing writers, some of whose work has become classic, who never won a Nobel Prize, and some whose work has long been out f print and forgotten who did. 

It's nice to know the Nobel committee gets it tight occasionally. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

This Week's Random Read...My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

I picked it up from the display counter before leaving work on Tuesday. I'm halfway through. Goodness, it's nasty! Compelling, like all Justine Larbalestier's work that I've read, but nasty! Like Liar, you don't know whether you should be sympathising with the hero or not. I don't think I really do, though you can understand his predicament. 

Did you ever see the film The Bad Seed? In it, there was a charming little girl who was a psychopath and did some truly dreadful things. She had inherited her evil from a grandmother, I think - a long time since I saw it. It's like that. 

Anyway, Rosa, the little sister of the protagonist Che, is truly evil. He knows that. He tries to stop her, but Che has his own problems. And he can't bring himself to warn anyone except his parents, who aren't helpful. Neither are the various doctors, who are fooled by Rosa's charm. She has no empathy and very little emotion, but she does learn how to pretend to care. So dreadful things are likely to happen to people who haven't been warned... but would they believe Che if he did?

Halfway through and trying to decide whether I can bring myself to finish it. It's not that I insist on a happy ending, but when you can see the horrible ending looming and no way to stop it, you do wonder if there's any point. 

I may put it aside for a while and read something a bit more cheerful before I get back to this.